More About the Life & Times of a Turkey Poult

This is a continuation of yesterday’s article on turkey poults:  The Life of a Turkey Poult.  It covered:  nest-building, breeding, incubation and birthing.

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The First Weeks of Life

The first 2 weeks, the poults stay close to mom’s side — for warmth and food.  They spend these

Turkey Poults Grow Rapidly; They Weigh 6 - 8 lbs. by the Time They are 1 year.

weeks on the ground, although the poults can fly by the end of their first week of life!

They are constantly learning at this time; they spend their days: feeding, sleeping, dusting, preening and peeping. By the end of the third week, the poults are able to roost in trees with their mother.

Cold weather can delay the process of moving to the trees.  By the time they roost in trees, they have  a large vocabulary.

A Poult’s Diet Changes 

In the early days, poults need a steady diet of protein:  beetles, grasshoppers and other insects.  However, as they are out looking for these in the open, they become food for hawks and other predators. Thus, they have to balance their hunger with their fear of being eaten!

During the spring and summer months, poults spend most of their time feeding – to fuel the rapid growth of their bodies.  Besides insects, they eat grasses, leaves, plants, berries and agricultural crops.

Because we make scratching noises when we are calling turkeys, we assume they only eat things below them.  However, they also stretch to nab berries overhead and even jump to snatch a morsel from a low-hanging branch.

These birds use their scratching skills year-round, but especially in the fall and winter months.

As the months roll into autumn, the numbers of insects and vegetation sources decreases, leaving the poults to start feeding on acorns and other mast.*

As the poults grow into jakes and jennies, their diet changes from almost all insects to:  10% insects and 90% vegetation.

The Pecking Order

Over the course of their lives, their rank in the pecking order of their flock may change.

At the end of their first year, the jakes leave their mothers and follow the older males or form new flocks of young jakes. Jennies will stay with their mothers, learning skills they will need as hens.

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For more info:  How to Use the Life Cycle of the Turkey to Your Advantage!

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* mast = ‘nuts of forest trees used as feed….” taken from the Free Online Dictionary

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com  

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Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm  Comments Off on More About the Life & Times of a Turkey Poult  
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More Fascinating Facts About Wild Turkeys!

Turkeys of a Feather

Are you aware that young jakes have longer primary feathers in the center of their fan-shaped

Jakes Have Longer Tail Feathers in the Center of the Main Fan; All the Tail Feathers of a Mature Tom are the Same Length.

tails?  

In fact that is a way to tell a mature tom from a young jake. Keep in mind that the only time you will see those longer tail feathers is when a jake struts!

Feather Colors

At a distance, hen feathers look dark brown while a tom’s appear black.

Each of the 5 subspecies of wild turkeys has unique characteristics.  For an in-depth explanation (with photos), refer to these earlier articles:

Head Colors

Perhaps the reason Ben Franklin wanted to name the turkey as the symbol of the US (instead of the bald eagle), is because a male gobbler’s head color is red, white and blue!

In contrast, a hen’s head color is a rather dull blue-gray.

Caruncle Considerations!

Also known as wattles, caruncles are the fleshy growths that hang from the turkey’s head and neck.  According to Wikipedia, “The wattle is often an ornament for courting potential mates. A large wattle is correlated with high testosterone levels, good nutrition ….” *

An adult gobbler’s caruncle will turn bright red when he is sexually excited. In contrast, a hen has a smaller wattle that is pink. An excited jake will have a wattle  that is more pink than red.

FYI for Hunters

In the latter days of the mating season, it may be easier for a hunter to take a tom.  He’s still interested in sex but there are fewer hens available for breeding.  

As more hens start nesting, gobblers may resort to more strident calling for females. Since he’s more stressed (looking for the few hens remaining to breed), he’s more likely to make a mistake — and move into the crosshairs of a hunter’s gun.

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*  Wikipedia, from the page — “Wattle (anatomy)”

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Thanks for stopping by; come again!

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This blog is a companion to my website: GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 7:21 am  Comments Off on More Fascinating Facts About Wild Turkeys!  
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Some Quick Tips for Spring Turkey Hunting!

If fishing ‘rings your chime’ rather than turkey hunting, you might wonder when I plan to let the gobblers get some rest.  Spring hunting is winding down in some places, while starting up in others.

Turkey hunting is so much fun because you are matching wits and cunning with worthy adversaries!

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Rest assured that fishing tips are coming soon.  BTW, one of the most important skills you can develop while hunting or fishing is …

Patience

Toms are usually bagged by the person who will wait —

  • for the tom to respond & come to the hunter’s call,
  • for the gobbler to move within range
  • for a clear shot 

Know Your Tom’s Habits

Left alone, turkeys have a routine.  If you can expect what the gobblers will do next, you can get into place to take advantage of their regular patterns of behavior.

Biologists tell us that most of the turkey mating takes place during the mid-morning hours.  Turkeys move into agricultural areas (fields) from their hiding places in the woods to:

  • eat,
  • strut,
  • mate, and
  • dust *

During the heat of the day, as the sun beats down on the dark feathers of the turkeys, they abandon the fields for the cool shade of the trees & woods.

By knowing this, you can situate yourself in a likely spot to surprise the hot and tired toms.

Know the Hunting Patterns in the Area 

Turkeys experience the heaviest hunting pressure from daylight until about 9 am.  They tend to breed during the mid-morning hours.

Experienced gobblers know that hunters leave hunting by noon.  Few hunters are going to sit in the heat without lunch.

Older toms are likely to lower their guard in the heat of the day.  Most hunters have left for lunch and the toms are often looking for a hen and a “quickie.”

Surprise the tom by hunting when he doesn’t expect to see you — and you can have turkey for supper!

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* Explanation of “dusting”:  …”turkeys routinely dust during the mid to late morning hours.  Look for an open area with loose soil where the birds have scratched out a “bowl” of loose dirt they can sit in and kick dust over themselves.

There are usually a lot of tracks, droppings and feathers nearby since they do spend quite a bit of time there during the middle of the day just loafing.

Turkeys are really very clean animals and dusting keeps them free of mites, ticks and lice.”   (Quoted from a fine article by Rob Ramsdale.  Click on the highlighted words to see the info.)

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‘Thinkin’ Spring’ is used by permission of Vantage Point Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Comments Off on Some Quick Tips for Spring Turkey Hunting!  
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More Important Turkey Hunter Behaviors

Did You Remember the Insect Repellent?

I have a personal belief that insects, flies and other small creatures are in cahoots with turkeys.  They jump into action: zeroing in on your nose, eyes or wandering up your leg at the critical moment.

Ask me how I know.

Go with the non-scented variety of bug spray.  The good news is that a turkey’s eyes are more sensitive than his nose.

Just don’t choose some scent that doesn’t occur in his world:  old spice, gardenia, vanilla.

Are You in a Good Shooting Position?

Sitting ‘straight on’ narrows your ability to get your turkey.  If you are right handed, it is better to sit a quarter to the right of the turkey you are calling.  This way,  you have a full 180 ° you can turn while getting off a shot.

If you are left-handed, sit a quarter to the left of the turkey you are calling – for the same reason.

Sitting straight-at a turkey narrows your range of firing.

Do You Concentrate on the Turkey & the Bead of Your Gun?

To shoot accurately, it is important to see both the turkey and the bead of your shotgun as you fire.   Turkeys are often missed when a hunter forgets this important step.

Remember:  The bead isn’t on the shotgun for decoration!

Are You Patient Enough?

Hunters often miss gobblers because he/she was in a hurry; rushing to take a shot from a poor position.  Take your time and let the tom move into place for a good shot — or don’t shoot.

Are You Wearing the Right Camouflage?

The ‘right camouflage’ means a pattern that fits the terrain where you are hunting.  Wear a pattern clear enough to disguise you; old and shiny camo is worthless.

Are you wearing jewelry?  Is everything not covered by camo fabric, covered by matte black?  Gobblers are looking for movement.  Jewelery, skin and shiny weapons reflect light.  Turkey eyes are about 5 times sharper than ours.

If you are fully covered in camo, then you will have the confidence to move when you must.  You will be assured enough to let the gobbler come in close;  you won’t feel the need to take just any shot because you are afraid the tom will see you!

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Darn, I’m going to miss turkeys when the season is over!

Come back for another thrilling episode!

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 12:04 am  Comments Off on More Important Turkey Hunter Behaviors  
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Important Hunter Behaviors While Going After Turkeys

Hunters may sit for hours, waiting for the right gobbler.  However, there are things that can go wrong — that will turn your sure thing into a miss.

Did you take care of these things?

Some Hunters are more Interested in the size of a Turkeys Beard (note the long tuft of hair coming out of this birds chest) and/or Spurs!

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Did You Sight-In Your Shotgun?

If you don’t know what kind of pattern your shotgun shoots, you are at a real disadvantage.  You need to know the pattern at 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards.

Confidence is an important ingredient in hunting.  Only by testing the pattern with each type of shot you plan to use, will you know that you are prepared to shoot at a range of distances.

Need more info?  See:   Shotgun Shell Patterning

Have You Learned to Estimate Distances?

If you haven’t learned to “eyeball” distances when hunting,  you are at a severe disadvantage.  Successful hunting is the marriage of practice, training, luck and woodcraft.

Practice stepping off distances, so you know if that turkey is within range of your weapon!

If you have a hard time estimating distances like I do, go early and walk off a couple of important distances and set a landmark.

During the excitement of  hunting, you will have marked measurements to use for comparison.

Do You Know Where to Shoot a Turkey?

It may seem obvious, but a turkey has a small “killing zone.”  For more, specific info, go to:  Is Your Shotgun Ready?

Do You Know How to Position Yourself?

If you aren’t in a comfortable place, you will not be able to wait the long times sometimes necessary to bag a turkey.

Remember, turkeys are on the lookout for MOVEMENT.  If you start fidgeting because you are uncomfortable, some tom will see it and move on to a safer area.

Find a comfortable tree to lean against because you don’t want your muscles to tense, cramp or shake.

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Thanks for stopping by today!

Come again!

I’ll return soon with the other half of this article!

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‘Turkey Dream 2’ used by permission of Restyler’s Choice Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments Off on Important Hunter Behaviors While Going After Turkeys  
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How to Use the Life Cycle of the Turkey to Your Advantage!

The Rest of the Story

Turkey poults are quick to learn!  In the first few days of life, the young chicks  learn the critical lessons they need to survive.

After 3 or 4 of years, these young poults can teach you new ways to pull out your hair in frustration! Something to look forward to, right?

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Poults need high protein meals at first: Bugs and grasshoppers. The wider the chicks range for food, the more likely he is to be attacked by hawks, and other predators.

Generally, being in open, exposed areas makes attack more likely. As months pass, turkey chicks learn to thrive in their habitat.

By the first leaves of fall, the poults have merged into young turks. Their diet has changed from bugs and leaves to acorns and other foods on the forest floor.

As spring rolls around to their first birthdays, they separate along gender lines.  The young jakes travel with the other toms and find their place in the pecking order.

Life goes on.

How Can You Use this Info?

The younger the turkey, the more he chatters, generally speaking.  It isn’t until his first brushes with hunters that he comes to understand that there is danger in responding to a hen’s call.

First year jakes are ‘raw recruits.’  Fresh from the safety of their mother’s wing, these birds must learn to take care of themselves.

If he survives the first couple of years, he becomes more cautious and quiet.

Turkeys have incredible memories.  If a tom has been spooked by a hunter in a certain place, he won’t return (to the scene of the near-crime).

Important Factors

If you are a newbie hunter, aim for the younger gobblers.  They lack experience and are easier to call and bag.

Both wild and domesticated turkeys could live to the same ripe, old age:  their early teens.  However, few wild birds last that long.

Life is tough in the wild; fewer than half of the poults that hatch will survive to see their first birthday!

As you grow in hunting skill, you will probably want to try the 4 to 5-year olds.  These birds are hunting at its best; they are nimble, wily, cautious and oh-so-sneaky!

Other Articles of Interest

Instead of trying to rehash this info, I’m going to send you to 3 good articles.

Happy Hunting!

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Sunday:  Picture Day at 3 G’s!

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 15, 2011 at 12:08 am  Comments (1)  
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Understanding the Life Cycle of a Turkey

Winter Season

As the hot days of summer recede into the seasons of fall and winter, gobblers and hens form units that travel and live together through the cold weather.

They spend almost their whole day looking for and eating whatever food they can find.

During Winter, Turkeys Band Together for Safety and to Find Enough for their Group to Survive.

As Spring Arrives

But as the longer days arrive, gobblers separate, jakes leave the hens and hens start dreaming of new poults.

The increased sunlight of spring brings on the turkey’s mating ritual.

Toms Fight for Their Place in the Pecking Order 

Over time, the gobblers set up a pecking order within their group. The dominant bird does the most breeding.  The other toms scurry to find receptive females and breed — while the dominant turkey is busy with his hens.

Wildlife departments schedule spring hunting season during the time that turkeys breed.  Fortunately, this happens to be the one time all year that turkey toms are distracted.

Hens Create Their Nests

Weeks before mating starts, hens start looking for a safe nesting place (usually on the ground). She prepares her nest and starts to roost nearby.

It takes the hens 10 to 15 days to lay the clutch (group) of eggs. She feeds before and after laying.

If, while she is feeding, the nest is attacked and destroyed, she will breed again, after creating a new nest in another site.

It takes about 26 to 28 days for the poults to emerge.

Young Turks (Poults)

Although the poult can fly at the end of the first week of life, the hatchling spends all his time making noise & eating. Mom supplies the warmth, security and food.

Between Day 14 and 20, the poult is able to move to the tree roost with his/her mom.

The constant stream of  chatter is actually school-time for the youngsters. By the time they can roost in trees, they understand the various turkey calls.

They have also started to find their place in the family’s pecking order. The pecking order can change over time.

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Tomorrow: The Rest of the Story!

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‘Thinkin’ Spring’ used by permission of Vantage Point Graphics

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Don’t miss Sunday’s Centerfold Pictures!

4 legged animals in various stages of undress! 😉

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

 

 

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 12:07 am  Comments Off on Understanding the Life Cycle of a Turkey  
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There’s Little You Can be Sure of While Hunting Turkey

Here are some items that may help you be more successful while hunting turkeys.  Before I get to them, however, I need to mention an important fact ….

As the mating season progresses, the gobbler's calls get more strident and insistent – as more hens leave for their nests and the incubation period (26 to 28 days).

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Nothing is 100% True (All the Time) With Turkey Hunting

These wily birds stay alive by using their wits.  When you are in a life-or-death match with a turkey, my money is on the gobbler!

He’s lasted as long as he has because he learns and adapts to new situations better than humans do.  After all, his life is on the line each time he meets a hunter!

Understanding Turkey Behavior

Well, it is getting hot out in the field.  The tom is full (for now), and he wants to go back into the woods to rest.

Where do you think he will choose to enter the woods?  Look for a spot that offers a clear line-of-sight for 50 to 100 yards.

A gobbler isn’t stupid.  He will not enter the woods where there is a thick cover; and he cannot keep an eye out for those pesky 2 and 4 legged predators.

Convincing a Gobbler to Go Against His Best Interests

Folks, it isn’t going to happen.  Trying to call a gobbler to you when he’s just entered a field for feeding — is against his best interest.

It will be a waste of breath to call him. He’s hungry and he’ll stay put until he’s eaten.  It’s a better plan to call him after he’s full and looking for a new place to rest or loaf.

When a tom is surrounded by his hen harem, he’s not going to leave them to search for a single hen that is calling him.  Why should he disappoint all his girl friends to wander after some shy chick – who is probably some hunter calling him with a few “sweet nothings?”

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FYI:  Be Careful Where You Step!

I found a water moccasin in my greenhouse yesterday morning — looking for a way out.  Snakes are on-the-move in Texas because of the drouth.  They are looking for water!  Be extra careful hunting in dry areas.

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“Turkey Dream 2′ is used by permission of Restyler’s Choice Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

When You Are Hunting a Wily Turkey Tom

A Story With a Moral

Robert, an experienced turkey hunter, shared a story that happened a few years ago.  He lived in a hilly area and could do a little hunting before going to work.

Keep Telling Yourself that a Turkey's Brain is the Size of a Walnut; After a While, Maybe You Will Even Believe it!

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Disappearing Gobbler

Around daylight, Robert would often hear the insistent gobbling of a tom; making noise from one side of a nearby hill to the other.  By the time Robert joined the hunt, the gobbler had quieted and would not stir.

After a few mornings of calling a little and calling a lot with no response, Robert questioned if there was any turkey at all!  He tried circling, setting up near the roost, everything he could think of — but no turkey appeared.

This is War!

Robert started learning everything he could about his quarry.  Eventually, he realized what the turkey was doing.

After the turkey called his hen harem, he flew down into a glade, where he had a clear view of the hillside.  If Robert appeared, the turkey saw him and left.

If Robert wasn’t on hand, the gobbler would strut in the clearing and gather his hens for breeding.

A few days later, Robert was in the glade before daylight.  He positioned himself  about 200 yards from the turkey’s roost and waited.

As the area lightened, Robert gave 3 soft tree yelps. *  The wily turkey flew down from his roost into the clearing, looking for the hen that had called him.

And that morning, Robert bagged his turkey!

What’s Important About this Story

This story shows just how important it is to learn everything you can about your adversary.

To be successful with this difficult bird, Robert needed to know:

  • where the turkey roosted,
  • where he traveled,
  • why he was going there,
  • what he did when he got there.

Some hunters think that superb calling skills and snazzy camo wear are all you need to snare a turkey.

Robert’s story explains why understanding gobblers is more important than just about anything else!   What you wear and how you call a turkey is only important after you understand your prey!

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PS: Hunters also say that it is important to hunt an experienced turkey in a different way or place.  Robert met the turkey where the tom didn’t expect to find him.

* Site of National Wild Turkey Federation; audio of 11 turkey calls.

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‘Woodland Splendor’ used by permission of Vantage Point Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments Off on When You Are Hunting a Wily Turkey Tom  
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Mistakes Turkey Hunters Make # 7

When You Can’t Take a Shot

One of the most frustrating mistakes turkey hunters make is not taking a shot at a bird.  It has happened to all of us:  For whatever reason, the turkey or you are not in a good place for a shot.

The gobbler may step behind a tree — just as you take aim.  Or you weren’t expecting the turkey to step from behind a very close bush.

Do You Know Where Gobblers Go to Strut-Their-Stuff?

Why Pre-Season is So Important

If you were scouting around for gobblers before the season started, you are more likely to have a feel for where a gobbler travels during a typical day.

You likely know were the gobblers roost and the area they use for strutting.  By spending time watching your quarry, you have a better chance of anticipating their behavior.

Trying a Second Time

If you have not spooked the turkey, you may have a  second chance.   Let the bird pass you by and let him get out of sight.

If you have done your pre-season work, you have a good idea where the males like to spend their time.  Circle around the bird.

Finessing Your Way to a Shot

Remember how I mentioned in an earlier post that you need to sound like a turkey hen when you are moving about?

They don’t march from Point A to Point B with a purposeful step, but take their time, scratching for food.

Remember, if you don’t sound like a turkey, you can only sound like a human.

Thus, when you are walking, you must make turkey noises, not human noises. Turkeys move erratically. When you are walking, it is important to vary the number of steps and the speed of your walking.

Take two steps, wait, take a step, wait, take 4 steps, wait, etc. Cluck and purr softly while moving. Scratch the leaves with your foot occasionally.

Now Put Your Pedal to the Metal

Be cautious and make a large circle around your quarry.  Get into a good position and start calling.

If your gobbler came towards you earlier with your calling action, use the same calling pattern.

However, if he’s not responding to those calls now, it is time to try a different call.

Here’s a great site for listening to turkey calls:  The National Wild Turkey Federation.  They offer 11 different calls (for your listening pleasure)!

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“Proud Crowd” is used by permission of Restyler’s Choice Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 12:05 am  Comments Off on Mistakes Turkey Hunters Make # 7  
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